The first time I came to Pakistan I found myself idly gazing out of the windows of taxis and buses as we whizzed around this new and bewildering country. The sheer variety of Pakistani traffic dazzled me – horses, donkeys, goats, even camels, were sharing road space with Land Cruisers and shiny new Corollas. And the buses! Multicoloured, moving works of art, glinting in the sun and rolling up the Karakoram Highway bearing loads of gorgeous Pakistani fruit. Never has staring out of a car window been so relentlessly entertaining.
And yet one thing perplexed me. When driving around Islamabad I could see one particular plant almost everywhere I went. Lush, green, with spiky leaves – it brought back memories of posters on the walls of some of the guys I knew at college. The kind of guys who went on weekend breaks to Amsterdam, listened to Bob Marley, and seemed relaxed most of the time. Very relaxed.
Yes, it was weed.
This stuff grows everywhere in the city in which we live. Everywhere. Entire rows of the stuff, eight feet high. Whole blocks of the city are hedged in with marijuana. If those relaxed and strangely fragrant guys from university came out to Pakistan I think they would have a very chilled-out trip.
I found this very odd at the time, and I still do – that this stuff grows wild with such exuberant profusion, and spreads itself around the place so successfully, in an Islamic country which obviously frowns on drug usage. But then it makes me think that perhaps it might be a good business opportunity – it’s essentially free, and people in Amsterdam pay all kinds of money for it, and long-haired people relaxed people in California are very enthusiastic about its “medicinal” properties, right? Now, if I could just find a way to get it past the sniffer dogs at Heathrow…